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Episode #646 – Vocalese Musical Phenomenon

Air Week: September 19-25, 2022

The Vocalese Musical Phenomenon

Vocalese is a musical sub-genre of Jazz and R&B that burst on the scene in 1952 and was practically gone by 1954. Before it departed, King Pleasure (real name Clarence Beeks) had managed to rack up 2 top 10 R&B hits in the style, which is a lyrical interpretation of an instrumental solo. Unlike scatting, which uses nonsense syllables to mimic an instrumental solo, Vocalese uses actual lyrics. Eddie Jefferson is credited as its innovator, taking Coleman Hawkins’ 1939 groundbreaking version of “Body & Soul” and setting Hawk’s monumental improved sax solo to lyrics. That set the stage for the biggest record of the Vocalese sub-genre, “Moody’s Mood For Love.” King Pleasure took that record to #2 during the spring of 1952, though the lyrics were written by Jefferson. It was based on James Moody’s 1950 rendition of “I’m In The Mood For Love.” Moody would soon adopt the tune, “Moody’s Mood For Love” as his theme song and play it until his death in 2010. Echoes of the original Vocalese movement were carried on by the trio Lambert, Hendricks and Ross in the late 1950s and revived again by the Manhattan Transfer in the ’70s. This week, Matt The Cat shines the spotlight on this oft-forgotten, but incredible musical form on this week’s “Juke In The Back.”

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